BIBLE STUDY SERIES #566, 567 and 568

29 September, 2002

JOSHUA 7:6-20 - CAPTAIN OF THE HOST - PART VI

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting the present series of Bible Studies for over ten years now; starting with a Study that began the sequence back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. With occasional digressions, we have taken up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy. We have continued into the Book of Joshua, and therein we had reached Joshua 7. You may wish to have your Bibles open to chapter 7 of that reference as we consider what God's Holy Word would show us from today's reading.

In order to set the stage for new listeners, I will explain that we had learned in our previous Bible Studies that Joshua has led the Tribes of Israel to the Jordan River, which, through the miraculously-timed intervention of The Almighty God they had easily crossed, to the consternation of the Canaanites of Jericho.

The main points covered in the previous chapters were the dismay of the Amorites at the ease with which Israel had crossed the river barrier into their area, and the requirement God made of Israel that they were now required to re-establish the national acceptance of the covenant of which circumcision was the visible token.

We had looked at six aspects of the crossing, and then seen that Joshua, while considering how Jericho should be assaulted, was confronted by a manifestation of Deity, Who is Captain of the Host of The LORD. Following direct divine orders by circling Jericho the walls had fallen and the city was taken.

We were, at the end of our last Study, considering how important for all Israel the protective shield of the LORD their God was over them, and how unprepared the people were for a sudden shocking reverse to their progress, which came about as the result of the sin of one man and his family who did not obey the strict injunction of The LORD.

Joshua 7 had begun with the solemn words:

1. But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.

The sin of that one man and his family in taking and hiding some of the treasure found in Jericho which rightfully belonged to The LORD meant that he had robbed God. Now while that sin was, for a time, hidden from the rest of the people, it was clearly known within the man's family that he had broken a command of The God of Israel. If nothing adverse happened to him and to them for doing it, no doubt they would have continued to break God's Law, assuming that God had not taken notice of this transgression. They might grow bolder and teach others that God was actually prone to leniency, and His commands could be disregarded with impunity, for would they not have proven that to be the case in their own experience? There might then develop a spreading disregard of God's will also as others learned of it and decided to follow the same example.

Such a process must not be allowed to develop. Thus it meant that, having given a strict command, The LORD's shield of protection in the war had to be lifted, allowing disaster to come on the next military foray. Had He not done so, it would mean that God had given a direct order containing a strict penalty, and then had walked away from that assertion of authority and treated the matter as of no real consequence. It would for all time yet to come have tarnished God's supreme authority, and opened the way to a precedent which would create grave consequences, which would ultimately destroy the veracity of what He said from that point forward. This, He could not allow. Sin is the breaking of God's Law, and the penalty for doing so had to be death, for it was a case of direct rebellion against Himself. We next read how the matter unfolded. Briefly, Joshua had sent a scouting party to view the land ahead of them, and when they came to the small town of Ai, they reported that only a limited number of troops would be needed to take it. About three thousand men went up, but these fled, with the loss of about 36 of their number when the defenders chased them from the town gate. Verse 5 ends with the words: "wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water."

What befell the troops was to be a salutary example, not only to Israel of that day, but it was also to become a part of the Biblical record, as an exemplary case study, for our enlightenment all through the centuries ever since that time. Moreover, I believe that I can even see some prophetic overtones in what occurred as well, which I might mention later. Now let us see how Joshua and the people reacted to this disaster so early in the course of their invasion. We will read from verse 6:

6. And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads.
7. And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord GOD, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan!
8. O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies!
9. For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?

The effect of the first display of invincible power which accompanied Israel would be removed, and enemies would be much emboldened in consequence.

10. And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?
11. Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.
12. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.

Such a disaster would be unthinkable. There had been an individual precedent of sorts, however, over forty years before, when Moses was approaching Egypt, on a mission under command of The LORD, but he had neglected to circumcise his son, which was a transgression of God's command to Abraham in Genesis 17:8-11, a serious mistake which might have caused his death, and which Zipporah, his wife corrected in Exodus 4:24-25.

13. Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: for thus saith the LORD God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.
14. In the morning therefore ye shall be brought according to your tribes: and it shall be, that the tribe which the LORD taketh shall come according to the families thereof; and the family which the LORD shall take shall come by households; and the household which the LORD shall take shall come man by man.
15. And it shall be, that he that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath: because he hath transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he hath wrought folly in Israel.

Let us for a moment consider what thoughts might have been present in Achan's mind as the process began. Did he think that amidst the thousands, his "little sin" would surely not be taken into account? Did he think that his sin would be overlooked, and passed by? Let us see how his thoughts might have changed with rising apprehensions as the solemn sacred process continued, and first, the head of his tribe was designated, then closer and closer the dread would close in upon him and his family would be similarly affected.

16. So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken:
17. And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken:
18. And he brought his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.
19. And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.
20. And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done:

By this time the psychological pressure must have been overpowering as the deaths of those innocent fellow soldiers was laid directly at his family's tent door before all the people.

On the next Bible Study, we shall be hearing the detailed admissions of the guilty head of a family in Judah, Achan, and listen in as the verdict and the penalty are disclosed. There is a prophetic aspect to this story which may also become apparent as we continue to discuss the outcome.

We have, in this Study, an important lesson for this week's meditations.

6 October, 2002

JOSHUA 7:20-26 - CAPTAIN OF THE HOST - PART VII

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting the present series of Bible Studies for over ten years now; starting with a Study that began the sequence back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. With occasional digressions, we have taken up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy. We have continued into the Book of Joshua, and therein we had reached the story contained in Joshua 7. You may wish to have your Bibles open to chapter 7 of that reference as we consider what God's Holy Word would show us from today's reading.

In order to set the stage for new listeners, I will explain that we had learned in our previous Bible Studies that Joshua has led the Tribes of Israel to the Jordan River, which, through the miraculously-timed intervention of The Almighty God they had easily crossed, to the consternation of the Canaanites of Jericho.

The main points covered in the previous chapters, Joshua 5 and 6, were the dismay of the Amorites at the ease with which Israel had crossed the river barrier into their area, and the requirement God made of Israel that they were now to re-establish the national acceptance of the covenant of which circumcision was the visible token.

We had looked at six aspects of the crossing, and then seen that Joshua, while considering how Jericho should be assaulted, was confronted by a manifestation of Deity, Who is Captain of the Host of The LORD. Following direct divine orders by circling Jericho the walls had fallen and the city was taken. The story of the fall of Jericho has formed the theme for a popular camp song from my younger years, and in that form may be remembered by many of our listeners.

We were, at the end of our last Study, considering how important, for all Israel, the protective shield of the LORD their God was, over them, and how unprepared the people were for a sudden shocking reverse to their progress, which came about as the result of the sin of one man and his family who did not obey the strict injunction of The LORD.

Joshua 7 had begun with the solemn words:

1. But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.

There had then followed, verse by verse, the unfolding story of the assignment, by Joshua, of a scouting party to go forward and to view the land. This party of scouts had returned with the news that there was a small city, Ai, which would not require the presence of the whole army to make a successful assault upon it. About three thousand troops were deemed sufficient, and despatched. However, to the dismay and consternation of the forces and the people of Israel, they were repulsed with the loss of about 36 of their number. This brought an immediate appeal by the head of the army, Joshua, to The LORD, to which the reply came back in verse 10:

10. And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?
11. Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.
12. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.

We had discussed the reason why The LORD must adopt this attitude in the last Study. His honour and authority would be tarnished had He not adopted the stance taken. By a process of investigation involving the selection of the lineage of the guilty parties, as stated from verse 16 onward, the guilt of one man was revealed, together with that of his family, who were aware of what he had done.

16. So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken:
17. And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken:
18. And he brought his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.

As we considered on our last Study, the steady approach of the finger of guilt to that man must have been quite terrifying. Having been revealed before all the people as the one whose sin had caused the deaths of about 36 innocent loyal soldiers, the demand then follows to have him disclose what he had done. This would correspond to our legal practice in the courts of making a presentation of the case for the prosecution, followed by the opportunity for a presentation of the case for the defence. Now we hear Achan's words in explanation of what had occurred:

21. When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.
22. So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it.

From what follows, it is quite apparent that Achan and his family were not by any means poor. Perhaps the relative wealth which is now disclosed in his possession, aside altogether from what had been taken from Jericho, speaks to us of a person who quite possibly had used similar means of acquiring wealth in the past through some shady dealings.

23. And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the LORD.
24. And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor.
25. And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.
26. And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.

The Companion Bible states, of "Achan = troubler" and draws attention to the fact that he is called "Achar" in I Chronicles 2:7, a genealogical list wherein the item bearing that name reads "And the sons of Carmi; Achar, the troubler of Israel, who transgressed in the thing accursed", and the same reference says, of the word "took" that the Septuagint has enosphisanto = took for themselves, i.e. sacrilege, and it adds "Same word as in Acts 5. 1, 2 of Ananias and Sapphira." Also that reference mentions that the word "Babylonish" has the meaning, in "Heb. = 'of Shinar', i.e. of Babylonia", to which we can further add 'Shinar = "country of two rivers"' and that it is the ancient name for the territory later known as Babylonia or Chaldea. That Hebrew word translated "wedge" is lashown {law-shone} and means literally "tongue, the organ of speech" (The Companion Bible indicates that it would have been a bar.) It would, together with the silver, have been quite a sizeable amount of wealth.

In case you do not have the passage in Acts 5:1-11 available, it reads thus:

1. But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
2. And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
3. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
4. Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
5. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
6. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.
7. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
8. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.
9. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.
10. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.
11. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

There is a sequel to this story which we will discover in Chapter 8, in the next Bible Study. However, we have before us today a very striking statement concerning the indirect yet potent results of one man's sin. He did not, himself, act as the slayer of those 36 men, in the sense that he did not have their blood spattering his own hands and clothing, yet he was the sole direct cause of their deaths nonetheless, and was held guilty by The LORD. It is a lesson which heads of government and military leaders even today must take to heart as they seek other hands to do the murderous deeds which they think will not thereby be counted to their charge because they were physically far removed from the direct scenes of bloody conflicts. Something to think about in our meditations for this week!

13 October, 2002

JOSHUA 7:20-26 - CAPTAIN OF THE HOST - PART VIII

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting the present series of Bible Studies for over ten years now; starting with a Study that began the sequence back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. With occasional digressions, we have taken up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy and continued into the Book of Joshua. We had reached the story contained in Joshua 7, so you may wish to have your Bibles open to chapters 7 and 8 of that reference as we consider what God's Holy Word would show us from today's readings.

In order to set the stage for new listeners, I will explain that Joshua has led the Tribes of Israel to the Jordan River, which, through the miraculously-timed intervention of The Almighty God they had easily crossed, to the consternation of the Canaanites of Jericho. We had seen that Joshua, while considering how Jericho should be assaulted, was confronted by a manifestation of Deity, Who is Captain of the Host of The LORD. Following His direct divine orders by circling Jericho, the walls had fallen and the city was taken.

How often in history have the actions of a few people, or perhaps of one lone valiant individual, saved a large multitude of people, and, on the other hand, how often have the actions of some small group of people, or even one person, brought about disaster to a large multitude of others. Thus it was with Rahab, whose actions saved her family out of the city when it fell.

We were, at the end of our last Study, considering how important, for all Israel, the protective shield of the LORD their God was, over them, and how unprepared the people were for a sudden shocking reverse to their progress, which came about as the result of the sin of one man and his family, the members of which did not obey the strict injunction of The LORD. Joshua 7 had begun with the solemn words:

1. But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.

There had then followed, verse by verse, the unfolding story of the assignment, by Joshua, of a scouting party to go forward to view the land. This party of scouts had returned with the news that there was a small city, Ai, which would not require the presence of the whole army to make a successful assault upon it. About three thousand troops were deemed sufficient, and despatched. However, to the dismay and consternation of the forces and the people of Israel, they were repulsed with the loss of about 36 of their number. This brought an immediate appeal by the head of the army, Joshua, and the other leaders, with clothes torn and dust of repentance upon their heads, before The LORD, and to this appeal the reply came back in verse 10:

10. And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?
11. Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.
12. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.

What a terrible shock that statement by their LORD must have given them. They were entirely exposed to their enemies who must, by now be well aware of their invasion, and even at that moment preparing to repulse their advances throughout the land, as those of Ai had now done. This early reverse had presented a critical military problem and it meant that a sudden desperate appeal to their LORD and protector must immediately be made. By a process of investigation involving the selection of the lineage of the guilty parties, as stated from verse 16 and onward, the guilt of one man was revealed, together with that of his family, who were aware of what he had done.

We should note that even the members of his own family were equally guilty with Achan. They were willing to remain silent; indeed to join him in a conspiracy of silence when they knew what was done, because they expected to share in the wealth which he had stolen from the LORD out of Jericho, for his own purposes. For anyone in the whole of Israel to remain silent when they were aware of the breaking of God's Law which concerned that solemn ban was to pretend that they had seen and heard nothing amiss. In the circumstance, it amounts to the presentation to all the neighbours of a falsehood. They were hiding a deadly danger to everyone in the nation. They had dissembled, giving others the impression that they were honest like the rest of their tribe. It was to allow something which was strictly forbidden to exist and to cover up, as a secret, the unlawful actions of the head of their own family. They ought to have persuaded him to take the things which he had brought to his tent at once, and return them to the place where other similar items were being collected for The LORD's treasury. Not to do so meant that they would share his guilt, and also likewise share his punishment if it was revealed, as the whole of the people had been informed of the strict order of The LORD concerning the curse or ban of dedication which had been pronounced upon all which The LORD's victory had allowed Israelites to collect out of the banned city of Jericho. It was also to jeopardise the safety of the men of the Israelite army, for that army was depending upon The LORD to be their shield in any armed action which they were ordered to undertake. As it had turned out, about thirty-six honest and fearless men, who were trusting in the protection of their God had gone to their deaths because Achan had secretly stolen from The LORD's Treasury that which belonged to it. The record does not state how many more of their company had been wounded, perhaps savagely, in that same attack upon Ai. Therefore the investigation which had been ordered by The LORD was undertaken, as we read from verse 16:

16. So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken:
17. And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken:
18. And he brought his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.

As we considered on our last Study, the steady approach of the finger of guilt to that man must have been quite terrifying. Having been revealed before all the people as the one whose sin had caused the deaths of about 36 innocent loyal soldiers, possibly his comrades in arms as he had entered Jericho, the demand then follows to have him disclose what he had done. Achan explained what had occurred:

21. When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.
22. So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it.

From what follows, it is quite apparent that Achan and his family were not poor. We find that, along with that tent he and his family possessed oxen, asses and sheep, and "all that he had", which might possibly indicate quite a few articles of clothing and quality furnishings which the family owned.

23. And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the LORD.
24. And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor.
25. And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.
26. And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.

We will return to that conclusion later, but at this point, we ought to consider certain things. First, when The LORD had granted the promise of this land to Abraham, he and his descendants through Isaac and Jacob were not to take possession for four-hundred years, until, as stated in Genesis 15:16, the time when the iniquity of the Amorites had finally become full. That is to say, until these Amorites had accumulated a tally of sins to the point at which God would no longer protect the Canaanites because the relatively righteous Amorites had finally become as sinful as the other Canaanites in the land. It had been the presence of the few righteous Amorites which preserved all Canaan from the destructive onslaught of the Israelites under Joshua until the point was reached at which that protection was removed from all the Canaanites. Incidentally, it might be noted that, like the number 40, the number 400 was a time count which indicated a time period of trial or testing.

We shall have to leave consideration of a worse sin than that of the Canaanites for our next Bible Study.

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